St. Martin de Porres is the patron saint of people of mixed race, barbers, public health workers and innkeepers. He was born in Lima, Peru on December 9, 1579 as the illegitimate son to a Spanish gentlemen and a freed slave of African or possibly Native American descent. After his father left his family, Martin was placed with a barber surgeon to learn the medical arts and to cut hair.
By law, in Peru, descendants of African or Indians were not allowed to become full members of religious orders. To become a part of the community he asked the Dominicans of Holy Rosary Priory in Lima to accept him as a volunteer who preformed the most menial tasks in the monastery. After more than eight years working around the convent as a servant who healed, cleaned, cut hair and worked in the kitchen, Martin was granted the privilege to take his vows as a member of the Third Order of Saint Dominic by a prior who disregarded the race laws.
Martin became a Dominican lay brother in 1603 at the age of 24. He was later assigned to the infirmary where he cared for the sick with unconditional love and patience, no matter the race or wealth of the ill. It is said he had many extraordinary abilities, including aerial flights, bilocation, instantaneous cures, miraculous knowledge, spiritual knowledge and an excellent relationship with animals. Martin was great friends with both St. Juan Macías, a fellow Dominican lay brother, and St. Rose of Lima, a lay Dominican.
After becoming very ill for almost a year, Martin passed away in 1639. He was exhumed 25 years later, still intact and his body exhaled a splendid fragrance.
St. Martin de Porres was beatified by Pope Gregory XVI on October 29, 1837 and he was canonized by Pope John XXII on May 6, 1962. His feast day is November 3.